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A Companion to the Study of History by Michael Stanford

By Michael Stanford

This ebook publications scholars via the entire critical historic thoughts, theories, tools and difficulties confronting these engaged within the critical examine of historical past.

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P. 160. 23 Nietzsche (1957), p. 12. html [5/29/2009 12:13:08 AM] page_40 < previous page page_40 next page > Page 40 great deeds for the encouragement of later generations. Indeed, long before written history, oral traditions did this. A young Greek was taught the exploits of Hercules, Theseus, Jason, Themistocles without distinguishing the mythical, the legendary and the historical. 24 Unlike the other three applications of history (as aim, as assessment, as means), history as drive does not demand much in the way of accuracy.

Reading the oldest Gospel (St Mark), one has to be aware that the words attributed to Jesus and the words written by Mark originated in different languages, in different generations, and very probably in different countries. Moreover, Jesus spoke in a wholly Jewish environment; Mark wrote in a context already Christian. Yet almost every reader of that gospel makes the assumptions of the latter context only. 2 Contexts: Meanings These, then, are the three contexts of action social, physical and cultural which the historian must take into account.

Thus we may hope to make progress and at the same time stop killing people. 3 Progress But what is 'progress'? Is the story of mankind one of steady advance, as many have believed? Progress implies improvement getting better. But 'better' in what sense? If history is the story of progress, does that mean that all things have improved? Or only some? If only some, have the improvements outweighed the deteriorations? Has the improvement been continuous, or in halts and leaps? Have there been backslidings?

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